Oppius dressed himself, to the sound in the background of the legions felling trees and constructing the walls of the army's camp. Caesar had defeated the enemy, but due to the absence of cavalry he could not rout them after forcing them off the beach. The legions would need to fortify themselves against a counter-attack. The newly promoted officer had ordered Fabius to wash his best tunic - and he permitted himself a smile upon thinking that it was the first order he had ever given to someone as a centurion. Oppius had also shaved and polished every piece of metal he had on display. He was perhaps more nervous about meeting Caesar for dinner than had been before any battle.
"I knew his father Joseph," Caesar remarked to his manservant, a wizened Jew who had been part of the Julii household since before his birth. Although Joseph spent most of his time in Rome, Caesar would occasionally have the cynical and dry-witted servant attend him on campaign. "Gneaus Oppius. I remember Marius once saying that he was worth two cohorts."
Joseph, who was just finishing up from shaving his master and rubbing oils to his skin, thought to himself how it was unlikely that Marius paid him the wages of two cohorts.
"Sulla once said about Caesar that he saw many a Marius in me. I am hoping that similarly there is many a Gneaus Oppius within his son. I could use a man like that Joseph. But I fear I may be boring you with military matters my old friend. Tell me, what do you think of Britain?"
"I'm not sure I'm the best person to ask. All I've seen of it so far is a beach full of corpses and a forest at night. I'm hopeful the sights will improve though. I confess that I prefer Rome. For one thing it rains less. From what I'm told, everywhere rains less than here. I also miss my wife - although I'm sure that I'll be cured of any fondness I'm feeling for her once I see her again."
Caesar smiled. He always enjoyed his conversations with his manservant. From an early age Joseph had used humour to temper his master's seriousness, or he would become serious whenever Caesar grew too flippant.
"I was confident that you'd somehow find a way to contain your excitement about the campaign Joseph. But we are close to the edge of the map here, writing a new chapter in the history of Rome," Caesar remarked whilst checking his hair and how his tunic hung in the large silver mirror his manservant placed before him.
"Just make sure that your obituary's not a footnote in that history," the Jew replied, unable to hide the worry and affection he carried for his master. He had neither been blind to his flaws nor greatness since an early age.
"Would you miss me then Joseph, as much as your wife?" Caesar replied, touched and amused slightly by the sage old man's rare show of emotion.
"There are times when I miss my bouts indigestion more than my wife sir, if that's anything to go by. No, I'm more concerned about being too old to break in a new master," Joseph replied, allowing himself a flicker of a smile as he packed away his jars of aromatic oils.
Caesar let out a laugh.
"Some people might say I give you too much licence Joseph."
"Ignore such people sir. Clemency is a fine virtue, especially when displayed towards someone who holds a razor to your throat each day."
"You are as wise as your people's Solomon Joseph."
"But not as rich, unfortunately."
"You wouldn't know how to spend such wealth if you had it."
"No, but my wife would."
Again Caesar laughed and again a flicker of a smile could be seen upon the wrinkled, good-natured face of his old servant. Partly, he was pleased to have cheered his master up. When he had first entered his quarters this evening Joseph had witnessed Caesar anxiously reading and replying to correspondence. Caesar had looked like he was about to fall off the edge of the map.